William Faulkner’s View of Refusal and Despair Evident in the Life of Emily as Illustrated in His Book, A Rose For Emily
A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner is a short story of sadness concerning a woman, Emily, who faces a struggle of inability to adapt to the changes in her life and the surrounding thus she results to living in denial and fear within herself. The story is demarcated into five sections with each section offering a specific perspective. Psychoanalytic criticism is a psychology theory that explains the behaviors of people are motivated and even driven by desires, conflicts, needs, and fears of which many they are unaware. We see throughout this story Emily living in denial and grappling with concerns that she is unable to come to terms with, denying to accept the changes within and around her life thus being constantly in isolation and despair.
The story shows Emily living in denial when her father dies. She continues to repress her feelings of grief within her pretending outwardly to be okay. A section of ladies a day his death decides to visit her and to pass their condolences and offer any help. She met them with no semblance of grief on her face and dressed as usual at the door (pg. 4). She even denies that her father is dead. They go to her house for three days pleading with her to allow them to dispose her father’s body to no avail. She only allowed them to take the body just when they were about to use the law. She breaks down at this point and they quickly buried her father understanding her position (pg.4).
Another instance of denial is evident when she murders Homer Barron. The two are seen spending time together on several occasions. Many people think that Emily has finally found a suitor in Homer and that they would marry. Homer is lastly seen entering Emily’s house where she kills him. Her father’s dominance upon her drove away suitors for years by turning them away as unworthy (pg. 5). She feels lonely and thus accepts Homer’s attention. Realizing that he had no firm wedding plans and fearing to lose him, she decides to have total control of him by killing him. She cannot accept the reality of him leaving her and would instead kill him than let him go. For years she sleeps beside the physical remains of her dead lover.
Emily also portrays denial when she refuses to admit that she had taxes in Jefferson. The town leaders sent her notices with no reply. They finally hold a meeting and send a group to visit her at her home. With a dry and cold voice, she declared having no taxes in Jefferson as explained by colonel Sartoris and even dares them to check the records to satisfy themselves (pg.3). Colonel Sartoris had invented a tale exempting their family from paying taxes, a tale which does not satisfy the new generation of town leaders. She even does not realize that the person she is asking them to confirm from is long dead. She fears to cope up with the changing times and thus chooses isolation as the hideout. She continually lives in denial of her surroundings to live her life as she desires with no interference, suppressing her fears and hurts and keeping them to herself.
She denies the fact that she needs help and support of friends to steady her life but instead withdraws to isolation where her health deteriorates, home stinks and even murders her lover. The only person she allows into her company is the Negro manservant who served as the combined gardener and cook. For ten years, nobody else she authorized to enter into that house, and she rarely went out. The ladies were not surprised when a foul smell developed as the Negro man servant according to them could not keep the kitchen properly (pg.4). Unwilling to let go her lover even after murdering her she results to necrophilia and even her health deteriorates.
When she can no longer contain the mental pressure and unable to adapt to the changes both in her life and her surrounding, she succumbs to her sickness. Her father had limited her to understanding only his standard of southern woman and values and so refused to conform with the evolving times. She always lived in isolation and despair with repressed feelings of fear until with no one waiting on her except the doddering Negro man. For a long time, she fell sick and no one even knew she was sick for they had long given up trying to get information concerning her from the Negro (pg4).
Repression of our painful experiences and feelings does not erase them from memory; instead, we unconsciously play them out in our behavior. People also tend to develop defenses within such as denial and fear among others. In this short story, A Rose for Emily, the unconscious and defenses advanced by the narrator illustrate the psychoanalytic criticism.
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